28 February 2022

The danger of cornering a mad king

I wrote  this more or less as part of a private message, but I think it bears repeating to my farflung correspondents.

I think there's at least some credible evidence that Putin is not acting entirely rationally. Sure the nuclear sabre rattling could be just that, but the fact is that the kind of direct personal ("imperial?") control he apparently has over thermonuclear weapons that could be almost inadvertently unleashed is literally unprecedented. The Soviet leaders didn't trust that unmediated control to one person... they were less trusting of one man's restraint even than in the US.

The immediate dilemma as I see it is we don't dare corner Putin. We, and by we I mean the whole world including China, need to give him an out where he can claim to have accomplished something. I really want to believe there's a part of him that doesn't want to be hated in 10,000 years when the name Hitler draws blank stares, as the man who caused the Great Death and the Long Dark Age. That is, if the human race even survives.

Is this a realistic possibility? I would like to think not, but very serious and well informed people, habitually disinclined to panic or paranoia, as saying that it is. We cannot sleepwalk into Armageddon. We simply cannot.

We stand a better chance of surviving the depredations of the dictator Putin in the short run than if we allow a regional crisis to become the tragic pretext of the long feared but nowadays mostly ignored fact that we remain on a hair trigger of nuclear annihilation. 

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